Monday, August 7, 2023

Psychogeography of the inlet

 Psychogeography is a term that emerged in the 1950s and its practice is great for landscape writers and artists:  "the effect of a geographical location on the behaviour and emotions of individuals." Until a few years ago, I was completely unaware of the word but had been thinking about the concept for decades. Writing about people of the sea and islands will do that.

"Unfold a map of London, place a glass rim down, anywhere on the map, and draw around its edge. Pick up the map, go out into the city, and walk the circle keeping as close as you can to the curve. Record the experience as you go ... footage as footage." Robert MacFarlane, A Road of One's Own.

In an urban context, this exercise forces a re estimation of our surroundings - what is accessible and what is off limits: fences, the concept of private property, the absoluteness of a stoic brick wall, drains and public thoroughfares. Really, it's a form of re-mapping or even anti-mapping. It breaks us out of the unaware carpark and footpath thinking that we have when heading down to the shops.

The reason why this is coming up for me right now is that the inlet broke its sand bar out to the sea last night. Here is a photo from today and you can check out photos from yesterday in my previous posts.

You can see the footprints from where Selkie was wading out to catch a stick that I'd thrown for her last night, those trees then a pretty reflection on the glassed-off water. We have a beach again!

For the last month, we haven't had a beach. As the inlet filled with river water threading through a system of thousands of square kilometres, places to walk became scarce. We are in the bush here: there are few tracks or roads. The inundation began to feel oppressive. On land, ancient marri trees leaned over us, blocking out the sun and keeping us cold and the solar panels failed us. The bush became more dark and damp. I grew up in sand dune, coastal heath country. We always had an horizon, a big sky. Living in the forest takes some getting used to.

From a person unwittingly writing about the psychogeography of islands, I became a person writing about the psychogeography of inlets and how they are kinda negative images of each other. An inlet is a body of water surrounded by land after all. My feelings come back to the original definition of psychogeography: "the effect of a geographical location on the behaviour and emotions of individuals."

Now this is cool. Last night, I strapped the camera trap to a tree at water level to capture the water as it receded. There were only three night time infra red photos. It was glassed off so the waves didn't trigger the motion sensor. What triggered it was the water rat, a marsupial better known as a Rakali, or in the Noongar language a Ngurju.


  1. I like the psychogeography of cities. You would like Guy Debord and the Situationists.

  2. Yes, we brush on them in English Lit!

  3. The British writer Peter Ackwroyd wrote my favourite book on London, and in it he talks about parts of the city which have never lost the spirit of place which existed hundreds of years ago, despite being overwhelmed and surrounded by modern architecture. There is a place near Temple called Fountain Court (it has a little fountain) which I used to go to for peace from the bustle of the city. When I read his book I found that Ackwroyd did the same when he was young, and he later discovered that everyone else had felt the same sense of peace way back in history.

  4. That is wild Tom. Something else we did last week was deep mapping, so digging down for history and stories of a certain place. Your experience sounds similar.

  5. What an interesting blog post.

    I came across something by Will Self on psychogeography a few years ago but didn't take much notice. I live in London now, and so I will take an afternoon/evening to notice and take in my surroundings. The person above mentioned Temple, and I have been there before. Great idea.

  6. Good one Liam. The idea of knowing an area intimately within a 1 km radius of where you live is another idea too, one I learned from Martin Shaw's philosophy. McFarlane's idea of drawing a circle on a map and then trying to traverse it, is something we did the other day. I had two very interesting conversations with humans and many more interactions with walls and drains. Very cool.